Random Musing Of The Day (On Realism In Anime)

Realism to me seems like dangerous measure for judging anime and one that I think is prone to bias, arbitrariness and misuse.  Is there such as thing as the truly realistic anime?  Is there truly a universal set of criteria for defining what constitutes realism or is just what one chooses to make of the idea(l)?  Should the final judgement of an anime be heavily weighted towards it’s supposed emphasis on realism? 

I don’t know for sure, but if it were me doing so then I think almost every anime ever made would probably get a 1/10 and an immediate dismissal if I were to grade heavily on the basis of absolute realism and it’s portrayal therein.

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13 Responses to “Random Musing Of The Day (On Realism In Anime)”


  1. 1 Unentschieden April 4, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    Is realism something anime should have in the first place? If I were to use something like that to describe (not rate) I´d use values like maturity or consitency.

  2. 2 Anonymous April 4, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    “Should the final judgement of an anime be heavily weighted towards it’s supposed emphasis on realism? ”

    The final judgement of an anime be heavily weighted towards everything, whether it be characters to the weapons, acting consistently, and the show’s ability to express its ideas clearly, coherently, and subtly. For example, a show that throws vague Judaio-Christian references around like confetti is not what I would consider a well constructed show.

    Depth doesn’t matter as long as the simple ideas are expressed clearly, something rare in most mediums, especially Anime.

  3. 3 The Animanachronism April 4, 2009 at 3:03 pm

    I prefer to ask whether the anime concerned is convincing within the boundaries it sets for itself. I mean, when I watch Do You Remember Love?, I’m perfectly happy to be convinced that you can end a war with a prehistoric love song, because Do You Remember Love? makes it clear that it’s that kind of story. I wouldn’t be that happy if the Pailsen Files ended with Chirico singing the enemy into submission. Similarly, what happens at the end of Clannad After Story is acceptable (I guess, I haven’t seen it) because it’s Clannad. It wouldn’t fit in Now and Then, Here and There.

  4. 4 Owen S April 4, 2009 at 7:25 pm

    “Realism” is usually brought up as a straw man, a perceived chink in the armour of any anime that fandumb fans want to depict as bad. It’s usually a volatile mix of logic-free opinion and memetic propagation, as the herd usually begins bleating “Realism good! Anime bad!” at that point.

  5. 5 no_sushi April 5, 2009 at 1:35 am

    Anime is inherently unrealistic (otherwise you’d be seeing live action series).
    I agree with The Animanachronism that an Anime series should not be a frequent test of our ability to suspend disbelief. Anime is often not bound by the rules of reality, but each one has its own set of rules. As long as it stays within those bounds, it’s fine.

  6. 6 Epi April 5, 2009 at 6:24 am

    I agree with no_sushi. If anime were real, it would be live-action, or better yet… real life.

    If we were to pick and choose though, I guess the most ‘realistic’ anime ever made would probably be Grave of the Fireflies, but then I guess everyone already knows that. Still, I guess watching the Live Action might be more realistic, or perhaps reading the original book.

  7. 7 Kaioshin Sama April 5, 2009 at 9:55 am

    @The Animanachronism, no_sushi & Epi: That’s what I’ve always felt, that as long as an anime operates within it’s own established levels of realism that there should be no real issue.

    @Owen S: That’s kind of what I was getting at when I said that “realism” as an evaluation tool can be and often comes across as totally arbitrary, though now that I think of it I have definitely seen it used as a straw man a lot recently. A lot of the time “realism” comes across to me as a flucuating scale for finding fault with shows that people just don’t want to like, but to me it’s a really lame thing to nitpick, because 99.9% of anime isn’t even trying to be realistic, it’s simply trying to tell a story.

    For every show that people claim is realistic I am sure I can find a way to paint it in a way where that is not the case at all, so really it just comes down to how the viewer is choosing to watch the series and not how the show is portraying itself. Though I’m sure with a lot of people these days if a show doesn’t click with them it’s clearly everyone elses fault but their own. Sigh….well that should clarify my view on the whole realism debate if people didn’t already pick up on my position.

    @Anonymous: What’s this about Evangelion and ambiguity now? :P

  8. 8 Rei April 6, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    I think that any story’s realism should be judged by nothing but its own standards whether it’s presented in anime or manga form. For example, if someone reads the Kojika manga and immediately exclaims, “Oh Kagami Kuro’s hair is so long, wouldn’t it just drag on the floor and get caught on things all the time? How unrealistic!” doesn’t it sound like they’re just picking at the manga itself because of their own personal taste? Of course that kind of character design would look out of place in a manga that aims for more realistic character designs, but in it’s own context it is completely appropriate.

    Also, what is so real about live action? Isn’t it unfair to claim “Show X has actors portray their characters, which somehow makes it fathoms more realistic than Show Y, in which the main cast is animated and therefore unrealistic”? If we take the Jigoku Shoujo anime (in which one can send their enemy to hell by typing their name on a certain website) and make it into a live action with the same exact premise, how can we immediately decide that the live action is more ‘realistic’ then the anime? Their ‘realism’ depends on both shows’ respective standards of reality (and how well their plot developments adhere to those standards) which is decided by the directors/screenwriters of the two shows themself, and can’t be determined simply by looking up whether it’s a live action or not.

    To all those people who think that live action is still so much more realistic than their animated counterparts, I suggest you watch Koizora.

  9. 9 CCCP April 15, 2009 at 3:39 am

    Personally, I think Realism is a bad measure for judging anime, but logic is a better one. The logic for an anime series is determined by what parameters are set throughout the show. For example:

    It has been well-established so far that one Gundam or handful of Gundams alone cannot win an entire war. That is one idea that had been set throughout Gundam SEED (esp. earlier.)

    However…

    In Gundam SEED Destiny, Kira does just that, along with Athrun and the other characters of ORB/Terminal.

    The difference between this judgement of logic an one of realism can be displayed in another comparison.

    Complaint about Realism: No friggin’ way could 50-foot robots become the main weapons of war. (That may be, but the allowance for the Mobile Suits is a parameter set at the beginning of the series.)

    Complaint about Logic: WTF? Kira and Athrun had to work together just to survive againt the three Gundam SEED druggies, semi-grunt characters, but they’re able to one-hit-disarm main character Shinn Asuka?

    This is my interperetation of the difference between realism in anime versus logic in anime.

  10. 10 Random Otaku April 15, 2009 at 7:34 am

    Rather than using realism, in the straightforward sense of the world, to measure a series, the factor should be the series’ ability to create a series of logical laws (the series’ “Internal Realism”)and assumptions, and to maintain them throughout it’s run.

  11. 11 CCCP April 15, 2009 at 7:37 pm

    Yes! Exactly, Random Otaku. I believe that sums up what I and a few others on here have been saying, though in a much more consise way than I put it.

  12. 12 Narrator 1 April 22, 2009 at 8:13 pm

    I agree wholeheartedly, with 100% of my being, with those who say that “realism” is far too subjective to be used as a realistic (Hey, pun!) barometer. I know this from years of personal experience.

  13. 13 Kaioshin Sama April 23, 2009 at 3:49 am

    Wow, I never expected this musing to be such a hit, nor for people to agree so wholeheartedly with my musing. Even the objective (shows standards) versus subjective (viewers standards) evaluation of realism in anime. It all reminds me of a trend in gaming not to long ago where almost every developer was aiming for absolute realism and were being graded pretty heavily on it by critics to, and what happened was that eventually people started noticing a lot of games were beginning to look, play and sound exactly the same. Finally one pundit, and I forget for the life of me who it was said something along the lines of developers, gamers and critics focusing so much on making games “realistic” that they were forgetting what games should really be about at their core….having fun and entertainment.

    That’s basically how I feel about anime as I said in my first impression on Shin Mazinger. If you can marry the idea of realism to entertainment in making a product then all the power to a creator, but never should entertainment, intrigue and fun be sacrificed in favour of realism in any form of media unless it’s non-fiction or a very special case.


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